Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Jessica Mann


I’ve been giving more thought to the discussion about gruesome crime fiction that we had the other day. It is always slightly unnerving when I read in the media about the latest real-life serial killer to be arrested – invariably, it turns out (horror of horrors!) that his home is full of books about murder. Of course, mine is too, even though I really don’t think I am that ghoulish, and my books certainly aren’t in the grisly mould of some current best-sellers.

Here is an interesting article by a notable reviewer, Jessica Mann, who has tired of gore. And I can well understand why. Jessica Mann’s own books are rather more sophisticated than those she has decided not to bother with in future. I’ve read several of them over the years, dating back to the days when I’d just started work and I haunted the local library, as book-buying was outside my budget.

One of her most notable books, however, is a non-fiction study of female crime writers, Deadlier Than the Male. This is full of interest, especially on the topic of the great ‘crime queens’ of the past. One of them is Josephine Tey, a class act who, although far from prolific, had many admirers at the recent St Hilda’s conference. From the discussion, it was clear that her work has stood the test of time better than most.

In her acknowledgements, Jessica Mann notes the assistance of that great Tey expert (and very agreeable crime writer) Catherine Aird, who was at the time working on a biography of Tey. Sadly, the book has never appeared. I’ve talked to Catherine about this project a few times over the years, and it’s by no means certain it will ever see the light of day. But I hope it will, eventually.

13 comments:

Jilly said...

I remember reading Jessica Mann years ago when I was mainly borrowing books from the library. Catherine Aird is always a must read for me as her characters are interesting and there is very little violence.

Maxine said...

I enjoy both Jessica Mann and Catherine Aird's novels - I remember "His burial too" years ago - didn't they make a film of that? For some mad reason I am thinking "Burt Lancaster" - am I mad? Maybe I saw another film in the same week with him in it, and I'm getting the two muddled.

I am lost in admiration for your attempting the link but I am afraid it has not worked...so cannot get to Jessica's article via it. But well done for trying...if your webmaster is still around maybe he can fix it?

Tim said...

Hi Martin, there's a problem with the link to Jessica Manns' article. I was looking forward to reading it :-)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

If a book gets too gritty, I feel stressed out instead of feeling like I'm getting an escape. I'll either put it down or start skimming.

I'll check back when your hyperlink is back up and working. Sounds like an interesting article.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Nan said...

I've become quite a shrinking violet when it comes to mysteries. I simply do not want to read about some horrific tale of a woman and/or a child being abused or murdered. I just can't take it. There are a number of writers I know are excellent but I just don't want to read some of the topics.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Jilly, and I can promise also that they are both continuing to write excellent books!

Martin Edwards said...

Oh, Maxine, and I did so want to master the art of links! I will try and sort it out...
As far as I know, Burt Lancaster never filmed a Catherine Aird story - it would be quite a surprise to me if he had.

Martin Edwards said...

Even to me, this sounds improbable, but although my IT guru fixed the mistake I made in linking, the link itself isn't working at present. Sorry about that. Not for the first time, I feel that the forces of technology are conspiring against me! Or maybe I'm just clueless...

Mack said...

Martin, your link is a thing of beauty and economy. It is Standing Point Magazine that appears to have gone temporarily pear-shaped.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Mack. That makes me feel a bit better!

Maxine said...

I don't think it is Standing Point. I got the link direct from Jessica and it works - here it is

http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/counterpoints?showold=yes&page=2

Mack said...

I think Jessica's point is well taken though I am a bit conflicted. I don't mind a bit of gore but it depends on how it is handled. Escalating explicit sadism, and sadistic misogyny in particular, put me off and I avoid books with that theme. There are too many good books for me to read. But look at the torture movies that do so well at the box office these days, I'm not surprised that publishers want to cash in. And look at the way news is handled - the cable news networks go all out in coverage if something happens to a young, attractive, white female and not so much for those who don't meet the standard. Frustrating and disheartening.

Last night I couldn't get to Standing Point's home page much less the article but this morning Martin's link works fine. I suspect maintenance or the server needed rebooting or a process got hung up yesterday. This sort of thing happens at my workplace on occasion.

Martin Edwards said...

So at last I did manage a working link - what next? Be warned, everyone, I'll get carried away and start linking to my favourite Youtube videos soon!
Mack, I agree it's complex and not easy to generalise. There are some excellent books that are horribly gruesome (The Mermaids Singing is one that springs to mind), but rather more disappointing ones, at least in my reading experience.